Million-dollar man: Paul Mainieri hired as highest-paid baseball coach in USC history

It’s official: Paul Mainieri is the new head coach for South Carolina baseball.

USC’s Board of Trustees governance committee approved Mainieri’s hiring and contract in a meeting Tuesday. His deal will run for five years with an annual salary of $1.3 million.

Mainieri comes out of retirement tied with Mississippi State’s Chris Lemonis as the eighth-highest paid coach in SEC (according to 2024 salary figures reported by The Tennessean) and is the first million-dollar baseball coach in school history.

The committee also approved a new three-year contract for current associate head coach/hitting coach Monte Lee ($550,000 a year) and new pitching coach Terry Rooney ($425,000 a year). Lee’s new contract makes him the highest paid baseball assistant in the country, according to Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill.

South Carolina also announced John Hendry as a third assistant coach, but his contract has yet to be finalized. Hendry is currently director of player development and scouting at Virginia, and it’s playing in the College World Series this weekend.

The 66-year-old Mainieri coached at LSU for 15 seasons and led the Tigers to a Men’s College World Series title in 2009. He had been retired since 2021 before agreeing to take the helm at South Carolina. He was making $1.1 million a year in his last contract with LSU.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to coach at a prestigious and tradition-rich college baseball program,” Mainieri said in a statement. “I coached and competed against Ray Tanner for years and always had the greatest respect for him and the USC program. To now join with him on the same team and become a part of this program was simply something from which I could not walk away.

“We have a super coaching staff in place, I feel great and energized, I can’t wait to get started working with the players, and let’s get this University of South Carolina baseball program back to where it belongs — in Omaha and in the College World Series.”

Mainieri will be expected to make the Gamecocks contenders for the College World Series, where USC has not been since 2012 — when current athletic director Ray Tanner was the coach.

“Paul Mainieri is an outstanding coach, teacher, competitor and someone that I have known for many years,” Tanner said through a statement. “One can judge his success through his many championships, SEC and NCAA, but I see the impact he has made on young men and know he can have that same success here as has achieved in his career.”

USC parted ways with Mark Kingston last week after the 2024 season ended with a 2-0 loss to James Madison in the NCAA Raleigh Regional. Kingston coached at South Carolina for seven years and compiled a 217-145 overall record (including 83-96 in the SEC). He led the Gamecocks to four NCAA Tournament appearances and two super regionals during his tenure.

Paul Mainieri contract buyout details

If Mainieri were to be fired by South Carolina in the first three years of his contract without cause, USC would be obligated to pay the rest of his deal in full. (If he was terminated within Year 1, South Carolina would owe him $5.2 million; within Year 2, $3.9 million; within Year 3, $2.6 million.)

If he were to be fired in Years 4 or 5, South Carolina would owe him 50% of the money remaining in his deal. (In Year 4, $1.3 million; in Year 5, $650,000.)

If Mainieri were to leave USC for any reason other than becoming a head coach at a different college or university, he would not owe South Carolina any money. Otherwise, he would owe South Carolina however much money remains in his deal should he leave during Years 1-3, or 50% of the remaining deal if he leaves during Years 4 or 5.

South Carolina adds new softball, men’s golf head coaches

Former Gamecocks pitcher Ashley Chastain was approved Tuesday as USC’s new softball coach. Her contract will run through June 30, 2029, and she will receive an annual salary of $300,000 per year. Chastain previously led the Charlotte 49ers, where her teams compiled a 154-96 overall record (61.6%), a 65-32 conference mark (67%) and two NCAA post-season berths in five seasons.

Rob Bradley was approved as the new men’s golf coach. His contract will run through May 31, 2029, and he will receive an annual salary of $240,000. Bradley joins USC by way of Purdue, where he coached for 11 seasons and led the Boilermakers to nine NCAA Regionals and four NCAA Championship appearances.

SEC baseball coaching salaries 2024

  • Vanderbilt — Tim Corbin: $1,942,165*

  • Florida — Kevin O’Sullivan: $1.755 million

  • LSU — Jay Johnson: $1.65 million

  • Ole Miss — Mike Bianco: $1.625 million

  • Tennessee — Tony Vitello: $1.5 million

  • Texas A&M — Jim Schlossnagle: $1.46 million

  • Arkansas — Dave Van Horn: $1.4 million

  • Mississippi State — Chris Lemonis: $1.3 million

  • South Carolina — Paul Mainieri: $1.3 million

  • Auburn — Butch Thompson: $1.275 million

  • Texas — David Pierce: $1.2 million

  • Alabama — Rob Vaughn: $900,000

  • Oklahoma — Skip Johnson: $775,000

  • Kentucky — Nick Mingione: $705,000

  • Georgia — Wes Johnson: $702,000

  • Missouri — Kerrick Jackson: $675,000

*According to most recently available tax records (2022)